Guru Balachandran Nair, presently known as Sat Guru Dharmananda Hanuman Das with Amy in Kerala, 2005
It was during my first pilgrimage to southern India, in Kerala, before my first child was born and just two years after opening my first studio in New York, that I caught a glimpse of what tantra could offer.
It was 2005, and after 10 years of a steady yoga practice, I was ready to go deeper. I remembered being introduced to the concepts of tantra in my teacher training years earlier as a practice of "making the mundane sacred". It was a concept that I welcomed---I wanted a life where everything felt magical. I imagined that I could have such a life, and that if I found the right teacher, I would be guided.
"I believe the greatest spiritual work is to actually deeply immerse ourselves into the life we have."
There were many adventures during that summer in Kerala. I traveled alone from New York on three flights to my destination in Thiruvananthapuram. I was almost 30, and welcomed new adventure. Upon arriving at the Ayurvedic ashram where I would soon meet dear friends, I felt ready for change. My intention had been to explore my own understanding of myself, and my hope was to find my practice deepening. Looking back, I'm not sure either really ended up happening then. Most mornings just before 6:00am as the sun came up, I'd be lying on my cot listening to mantra being chanted over the loud speaker. Next, the most amazing chai would arrive outside my door. Morning practice would follow, and then from that point there was no guessing what the day would hold. I quickly began to notice how rooted I was, as a modern-day-westerner, in my schedule and my need to plan and know what was coming next. There in the tropical heat of the south of India, outside of morning practice and evening Satsang, routine and the clock didn't rule life.
One day I was walking one of the paths as the Guru approached. He greeted me by name and asked if I'd like to see the rose garden he was proudly working on. I eagerly said "yes", excited to spend the rare time alone with him. While we walked for a short time to the garden he would point out various medicinal plants and herbs. As we arrived in the garden he asked if I was familiar with the proper pruning of the beds. I replied, "no", and so he began to demonstrate. I watched, and he invited me to continue pruning as he walked away. Was I to stand there and prune his garden? Was I to follow him? There I stood both confused and a bit angry, wondering if I had been tricked into the work. The time I thought I was going to have with the Guru was gone. Disappointed thoughts swam through my head. "Is this what I came to India for?" And then: I realized it was. It was just what I came for. I came for an immersion. An immersion course on being present in the moment and experiencing it fully.
I believe the greatest spiritual work is to actually deeply immerse ourselves into the life we have. Not the life we've had, the one we might be moving toward, or the one that isn't ours. This isn't to say that dreams, goals, and desires should be discarded, but instead brought into our life as it is today. With this perspective we can understand that reality dances with desire and creativity dances with skill. Holding this perspective is still my my spiritual practice more than a decade later. I continue on the path that began two decades ago of Self-exploration and understanding. Little by little my practice and awareness deepens.
The ancient tantras revealed the importance and power of ritual as a way to become infused and connected to the sacredness of life. Although the branches of ancient tantra vary considerably, the constant thread throughout is the attention placed on the sacred and purposeful action one takes to both awaken and connect with the Divine greatness within. If we look further at the etymology of tantra we find that is is derived from Sanskrit word-parts that mean "to stretch" , "to weave", or "to create". On a fundamental level there is a clear directive to integrate all parts of who we are together and secondarily to weave the un-manifest into the manifest. It is a call to synergize potential and power with our life.
Beginning to align action with intention is scratching the surface of this path. However if we are to live fully we must truly come in contact with our life and allow our life to be a prayer in motion.
WELCOME TO TANTRA WELLNESS AND YOGA.